WO1997009591A1 - Measuring time of flight of a signal - Google Patents

Measuring time of flight of a signal Download PDF

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Publication number
WO1997009591A1
WO1997009591A1 PCT/US1995/011118 US9511118W WO9709591A1 WO 1997009591 A1 WO1997009591 A1 WO 1997009591A1 US 9511118 W US9511118 W US 9511118W WO 9709591 A1 WO9709591 A1 WO 9709591A1
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WO
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
signal
time
flight
measuring
step
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Application number
PCT/US1995/011118
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
William Freund
Winsor Letton
James Mcclellan
Boacang Jai
Anni Wey
Wen Chang
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Daniel Industries, Inc.
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01FMEASURING VOLUME, VOLUME FLOW, MASS FLOW OR LIQUID LEVEL; METERING BY VOLUME
    • G01F1/00Measuring the volume flow or mass flow of fluid or fluent solid material wherein the fluid passes through the meter in a continuous flow
    • G01F1/66Measuring the volume flow or mass flow of fluid or fluent solid material wherein the fluid passes through the meter in a continuous flow by measuring frequency, phaseshift, or propagation time of electromagnetic or other waves, e.g. ultrasonic flowmeters
    • G01F1/667Schematic arrangements of transducers of ultrasonic flowmeters; Circuits therefor

Abstract

An apparatus for measuring the time of flight of a signal is provided. The apparatus for measuring the time of flight of a signal comprises a transmitter (206) for emitting a signal, a receiver (216) for receiving the signal from the transmitter (206), and means for detecting the onset of the signal as it arrives at the receiver (216) such that the period of time from emission by the transmitter (206) to the time the receiver (216) initially receives the signal can be determined. In another embodiment, the present invention provides a method for determining the time of flight of a signal comprising the steps of receiving a transmitted signal, operating on the received signal for generating a pre-conditioned signal for removing irregularities therefrom for generating a conditioned signal, operating on the conditioned signal to form a discriminated signal, and determining the critical point of the discriminated signal.

Description

MEASURING TIME OF FLIGHT OF A SIGNAL

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for measuring the time of flight of a signal between two points or the time of flight of a reflected signal to return to the original point. Also, the present invention relates to a method for measuring the time difference between reception of the same signal at two different locations. Both analog and digital techniques are applicable to the present invention. The method and apparatus of the present invention is applicable with ultrasonic flow meters and, generally, any detector which uses the time a signal takes to go from one point to another to make a measurement. All measurements applicable for use with the present invention are referred to as time of flight measurements . BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many measuring techniques and devices require an accurate measurement of the time of flight of a signal. Any technique or device that measures the time of travel of a wave or signal requires a degree of accuracy in determining the measurement. The application dictates the degree of accuracy required. The quantitative determination of the time of travel of a wave or signal in some situations can be relatively easy, or can be difficult. Thus, the need for an accurate measure of the time of travel with respect to the more difficult applications has led to problems in accurate metering. For example, applications which require measurement precision of less than one period of the signal are difficult. Examples of such metering techniques requiring time-of-flight estimates are flow, level, speed of sound, and acoustic impedance measurements. The accurate measurement of the time of travel of the signal is a basic requirement for an effective technique or device. The measurement of the time of flight of a sonic or ultrasonic signal has different complications than the measurement of the time of flight of a radar signal. In the example of radar, where the time resolution is long with respect to the period of the signal, the time of flight can be readily measured by viewing the envelope of the returning energy. The measurement when the time resolution is short with respect to the period of the signal is more difficult. Such prior devices and methods which can be used with or are associated with the present invention include, for example, United States Patent No. 2,724,269 to Kalmus entitled "Apparatus for Measuring Flow," U.S. Patent No. 4,646,575 to OΗair and Nolan entitled "Ultrasonic Flow Meter" and U.S. Patent No. 5,178,018 to Gill entitled "System for Measuring the Time for a Signal to Pass Between Two Spaced Points in a Fluid." With respect to U.S. Patent No. 2,724,269, the phase shift of a signal is associated with a reference. The '269 patent describes periodically interchanging the transmitter and the receiver. U.S. Patent No. 4,646,575 describes using multiple paths of ultrasonic energy which paths are angularly disposed with regard to the flow and each other. U.S. Patent No. 5,178,018 provides a system applicable for use in continuous-state wave applications. A phase shift is measured at a particular point in time and used to determine the time for the signal to pass between two spaced points.

It is, therefore, a feature of the present invention to provide an method and apparatus for measuring accurately the time of flight of a signal where the period of the signal is long compared to the required time resolution.

A feature of the present invention is to provide an method and apparatus for enhancing the ability to select a specific part of the associated waveform for determining the time of flight of the signal.

Another feature of the present invention is to provide an method and apparatus which enhances the ability to process a signal to determine the time of flight of a signal. Yet another feature of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for measuring the time of flight of a signal which measurement is not compromised by noise generated by turbine meters, compressors and valves. Another feature of the present invention is the ability to accurately measure the time of flight of a signal, transmitted from, for example, an ultrasonic transmitter, when the signal is corrupted by the presence of noise.

Yet still another feature of the present invention is to provide an method and apparatus for measuring the time of flight of a signal which method and apparatus is adaptive to signal changes caused by external influences.

Additional features and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will become apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The features and advantages of the invention may be realized by means of the combinations and steps particularly pointed out in the appended claims. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

To achieve the foregoing objects, features, and advantages and in accordance with the purpose of the invention as embodied and broadly described herein, the apparatus for measuring the time of flight of a signal between two points comprises a transmitter for emitting a signal, a receiver for receiving the signal from the transmitter, means for detecting the onset of the received signal, means for determining a point of measurement within the received signal, and means for measuring the elapsed time from transmission of the signal to the point of measurement.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a method for determining the time of flight of a signal comprising the steps of receiving a transmitted signal, operating on the received signal for generating a pre-conditioned signal, operating on the pre-conditioned signal to remove irregularities therefrom for generating a conditioned signal, and operating on the conditioned signal to find the onset of the signal and thus the time of flight thereof. The onset of the signal is represented by or defined as the critical point.

The step of operating on the received signal for generating a pre-conditioned signal can be applying any function to the received signal which enhances the ability to detect the received signal. For example, the received signal can be squared. In addition to enhancing the ability to detect the received signal, it is exceptionally advantageous to square the received signal so that the energy can be acquired. However, numerous and sundry methods for operating on the received signal may be known to those skilled in the art. For example, the absolute value of the received signal may be taken, a full wave rectification of the received signal may be used, and a half wave rectification of the received signal may be used for enhancing the ability to detect the received signal.

The step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal to remove irregularities can be accomplished in numerous ways by those skilled in the art of signal analysis. A preferred embodiment of the present invention is to average the pre-conditioned signal using a moving window thus forming a conditioned signal. Various window functions can be used. Similarly, various window lengths can be used. The window function moves along the pre¬ conditioned signal averaging groups of points. In the presently preferred embodiment, 21 points have been used. It has been found that a rectangular window function provides exceedingly good results. Other conditioning techniques are readily known in the art and may be adopted for use with the present invention.

The step of determining the critical point is important with respect to practicing the present invention. The critical point discriminates between where the received signal is present, and where it is not present or, worse, occupied by noise. Determining the critical point is preferably accomplished by using some discrimination function, f(n,n -l). In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, an energy ratio is used to determine the critical point which identifies the beginning or onset of the received signal. The energy ratio is provided by the following equation:

Figure imgf000007_0001

where ERn is the energy ratio at location n, En is representative of the energy at location n, and £„_, is representative of the energy at location n - 1 such that / is the time lag, i.e., the number of time units prior to sample n. Alternately, the discrimination function may be accomplished by taking the derivative of the conditioned signal. In a preferred embodiment, a method for measuring the time of flight of a signal is provided comprising the steps of identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the received signal, ascertaining a marker point related to an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal and having a temporal relationship with the critical point, and using the marker point for determining the time-of-flight of the signal. Those skilled in the art appreciate that signals have intrinsic characteristics. For example, an intrinsic characteristic may be a peak, a positive zero crossing or a negative zero crossing. A signal attribute is defined as a particular intrinsic characteristic of the signal. An example of a signal attribute is the second zero crossing after the critical point.

In a more detailed preferred embodiment, a method for measuring the time of flight of a signal is provided comprising identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the received signal. The identification of the critical point is accomplished by evaluating the energy ratio of the received signal, and setting the critical point on the positive slope and at approximately one-fourth of the maximum of the energy ratio. Marker points on the received signal are determined. The marker points are determined by ascertaining two or more points related to a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal. Also, the signal attribute has a temporal relationship with the critical point. The signal attribute selected is a zero crossing, and the marker points on the received signal are proximate to and bracket the zero crossing. The location of the attribute is determined by interpolating between the marker points to determine the point of measurement of the zero crossing. The location of the attribute represents the time-of-flight ofthe signal. In another embodiment, the present invention provides a method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal that finds a set of potential measurement points and applies a function to determine the best point in the set upon which to make the measurement. The method provides for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal by identifying at least one critical point associated with the beginning of the received signal. Then, a plurality of marker points are found related to a sequence of a signal attribute. The signal attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal and has a temporal relationship with the critical point. A plurality of target functions are calculated at each signal attribute. Then, a criteria function is determined for each incidence of the signal attribute based upon the target functions. A desired incidence of the signal attribute is located based on the criteria function. Then, using the selected incidence of the signal attribute, the time-of-flight of the signal is determined.

It can also be appreciated by those skilled in the art that even the critical point could be used to calculate the time of flight of the signal.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings which are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification, illustrate preferred embodiments of the invention and together with the general description of the invention given above and the detailed description of the preferred embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles ofthe invention. FIG. 1 is a flow diagram illustrating an overview of multiple embodiments of the method of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating the time of flight measurement of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is an overview illustration of an apparatus employing the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective cross-section of a pipe illustrating one embodiment of the orientation of transducers which could be used in association with the present invention.

FIG. 5 is an illustration of a received signal or waveform which has been digitized in association with practicing one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 6 is an illustration of one embodiment of a pre¬ conditioned signal associated with the received signal illustrated in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is an illustration of one embodiment of a conditioned signal associated with the pre-conditioned signal illustrated in FIG. 6 and the received signal illustrated in FIG. 5.

FIG. 8 is an illustration of the discriminated signal and the critical point associated with the received signal practicing one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 9 is an illustration of a location determined to be the marker point of the received signal proximate to the signal characteristic.

FIG. 10 is a blow-up view of another typical received signal, including its associated energy ratio, critical point and marker points.

FIG. 11 is a diagram illustrating electronics associated with the apparatus of the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a flow diagram illustrating one embodiment of the method of the present invention. FIG. 13 is a flow diagram illustrating another embodiment of the method of the present invention.

FIG. 14 is a flow diagram illustrating yet another embodiment of the method of the present invention. The above description and the following detailed description are merely illustrative of the generic invention, and additional modes, advantages, and particulars of this invention will be readily suggested to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Reference will now be made in detail to the present preferred embodiments of the invention as described in the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a flow diagram illustrating an overview of several embodiments of the method of the present invention. The received signal is operated on for generating a pre-conditioned signal as illustrated in FIG. 6. The pre¬ conditioned signal is operated on for generating a conditioned signal. An illustration of the conditioned signal as practiced by the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 7. As illustrated in FIG. 8, a discrimination function is apphed based upon the ratio of the energy of the received signal with a time shifted version of itself, i.e., the energy ratio. The energy ratio provides an exceptional, although not exclusive, technique for determining the critical point. Further, the critical point provides an indication of initial rise or the onset of the received signal. The critical point is applied to the received signal for determining a point of measurement. Thereafter, the time of flight can be determined.

FIG. 1 illustrates numerous embodiments of the present invention. The specific steps are operating on the received signal for generating a pre-conditioned signal, operating on the pre-conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal, operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal, determining the critical point, applying the critical point to the received signal for determining a point of measurement, and determining the time of flight. The specific steps can be implemented using various procedures or techniques. The step of operating on the received signal for generating a pre-conditioned signal can include squaring the signal, taking the absolute value of the signal, applying a full wave rectification of the signal, applying a half wave rectification of the signal, or some other method which would provide for the type of operation described which would generate the pre-conditioned signal. The operation on the pre-conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal provides that an average is taken by applying a moving window function. Preferably, the moving window function is rectangular. However, other window functions are readily applicable in practicing the present invention, for example, a Hanning window, a Kaiser window, a cosine window or a Bartlett window are also applicable when using the present invention. The operation on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal preferably provides that an energy ratio is evaluated with respect to the conditioned signal. However, an alternate procedure is taking the derivative of the conditioned signal. Other procedures may be applicable. Determining the critical point provides that a point is selected where the discriminated signal has a value of some percentage of the maximum value of the discriminated signal. This determination of the critical point includes using a positive slope, using a negative slope, using a maximum value or the like. The application of the critical point to the received signal for determining a point of measurement includes selecting the critical point, determining the marker points, and evaluating an appropriate signal attribute. Thereafter, the time of flight can be determined.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating the time of flight measurement of the present invention. In a preferred embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 2, a signal is received and digitized to form a received signal that can be electronically manipulated. The received signal can be enhanced. The need for enhancement of the signal, or not, is situation specific. Enhancement is possible by techniques known to those skilled in the art. For example, the received signal can be enhanced by filtering out high or low frequency noise. Alternately, the received signal can be enhanced by stacking. With respect to the present invention, stacking is defined as the repeated summation of several signals so as to diminish the random noise and emphasize the real signal. The energy associated with the received signal is calculate to form a pre-conditioned signal. The pre-conditioned signal is then averaged to form a conditioned signal. The averaging is accomplished by using a moving window function. A discrimination function is then used. The discrimination function determines the ratio of the energy of the received signal with a time shifted version of itself. The critical point is located with respect to the received signal. The received signal is detected by determining the location of the critical point on the leading edge of the energy ratio. In a preferred embodiment, the value of the critical point is 25% of the maximum of the energy ratio. A marker point is located on the received signal. The marker point is a sampled point on the received signal proximate to an attribute of the signal, and in known temporal relationship to the critical point. The signal is checked or validated. A check is performed to determine that a valid analysis has been achieved. The check can, for example, use one or more of the following: identify points on the received signal before the marker points, identify points on the received signal after the marker points, check the signal for the expected period and amplitude, check that the difference between each marker point and the critical point is within an allowed range. Thereafter, the transit time can be readily calculated. FIG. 3 is a general illustration of a representative apparatus for employing the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective cross-section of a pipe illustrating one embodiment of the orientation of transducers which could be used in practicing the present invention. The pipe 102 is adapted for receiving the transducers 104, 106. The transducers 104, 106 are displaced on opposite sides of the pipe 102 by a distance L between each transducer. The transducers 104, 106 are longitudinally displaced by a distance of X. The pipe 102 has notches 112, 114 for receiving the transducers 104, 106, respectively.

FIG. 5 is an illustration of a received signal or waveform which has been digitized in association with practicing one embodiment of the present invention. The signal is transmitted from a transducer, for example, the transducer illustrated in FIG. 4. The signal takes some period of time to travel a distance, L, from transmission to reception. The signal is received by a transducer, for example, the transducer illustrated in FIG. 4. The received signal is digitized.

FIG. 6 is an illustration of one embodiment of a pre¬ conditioned signal associated with the received signal illustrated in FIG. 5. Although various methods of determining the pre-conditioned signal may be readily available to those skilled in the art, a preferred way, as practiced by the present invention, is to take the square of the received signal, yielding a representation of the energy. Numerous and sundry methods for operating on the received signal to achieve an effective pre-conditioned signal may be known to those skilled in the art as previously discussed. The curve of FIG. 6 illustrates the pre¬ conditioned signal or function of the received signal illustrated in FIG. 5 which has been squared. FIG. 7 is an illustration of one embodiment of a conditioned signal associated with the pre-conditioned signal illustrated in FIG. 6 and the received signal illustrated in FIG. 5. A preferred way of determining the conditioned signal or function, as practiced by the present invention, is to average the pre-conditioned signal using a moving window. The window function moves along the pre¬ conditioned signal averaging groups of points. In the presently preferred embodiment, 21 points have been used for each window frame. It has been found that a rectangular window function provides exceedingly good results. It can be appreciated that other window types can be used such as those known in the art as Hamming, Kaiser, Hanning and Bartlett windows. Further, a different number of points can be adopted for use with the present invention. The curve of FIG. 7 illustrates the conditioned signal formed from the pre-conditioned signal by averaging using a moving window.

FIG. 8 is an illustration of the energy ratio and the critical point associated with the received signal practicing one embodiment of the present invention. The critical point is determined by operating on the conditioned signal with a discrimination function such as f(n,n -l). In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the determination of the critical point from the energy ratio is used to identify the beginning or onset of the signal. The energy ratio is provided by the following equation:

Figure imgf000014_0001

where ERn is the energy ratio at the location n, En is representative of the energy at location n, and En_{ is representative of the energy at location n -l such that / is the time lag, i.e., the time units prior to sample n. In pi, L is 15 time units. An example of the energy ratio curve is illustrated in FIG. 8. Typically, the energy ratio is a steep, spiked curve occuring approximately at the same time as the onset of the received signal (See FIG. 9).

Various and sundry techniques may be used to evaluate the critical point as taught by the present invention. It has been found that critical points coincide with the continuum of the energy ratio curve having a positive slope. In a preferred embodiment, approximately one-fourth of the maximum of the energy ratio defines the critical point effectively approximating the onset of the received signal. FIG. 8 illustrates the critical point marked "X" on the energy ratio curve at approximately 25% of the maximum of the energy ratio.

FIG. 9 is an illustration of the location determined to be the marker point of the received signal proximate to the signal attribute. The signal attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal. Thus, on FIG. 9, the marker points are actual points of the received signal proximate to the received signal attribute, which attribute is a zero crossing after the critical point. The marker points can be, for example, the points of the signal adjacent to the attribute. Choosing sample points immediately adjacent to the attribute as the marker points is a presently preferred embodiment of the invention. It is preferred to calculate the time of flight of the signal using the signal attribute, however, the time of flight of the signal can be calculated based upon the marker points' representation. The preferred embodiment of the measurement of the time of flight of the signal practicing the present invention uses an approximation of the signal attribute. The preferred approximation of the signal attribute is the approximation of a zero crossing. The approximation can be made by determining two sample points which are adjacent to and bracket the signal attribute. These particular sample points are the marker points for the signal. The attribute can be determined by interpolating between the marker points. The time of flight of the signal is calculated based upon the location ofthe signal attribute.

FIG. 10 is a blow-up view of another typical received signal, including its associated energy ratio, critical point and marker points. The received signal is illustrated as a thin sohd line. The energy ratio associated with the received signal is illustrated as a thick solid line. The value of one-fourth of the energy ratio is illustrated on the increasing slope of the energy ratio curve. It can be readily appreciated by those skilled in the art that various other signal location points, such as the marker points, can be readily determined from this technique. It is considered that finding all of these other signal locations, as associated with the general method of the present invention, are adapted for use, and included in, the present invention. The present invention provides that one or more points on the received signal are to be used as the marker points with generally known interpolation techniques for determining the point of measurement for making the time measurement. In another embodiment, the present invention provides a method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal that finds a set of potential measurement points and applies a function to determine the best point in the set upon which to make the measurement. This method uses a target functions based upon the signal attribute to be evaluated. Such signal attributes include, for example, the zero crossings. The target functions can be used as components of a criteria function to identify preferred parts of the received signal to use as measurement points. The presently preferred method comprises using a weighted sum of the target functions for each point evaluated.

The step of applying the critical point to the received signal for determining the points to use in making the time measurement can be accomplished in various ways. Standards can be set to determine which point is to be selected as the measurement point. For example, the point that generates the largest positive value from the criteria function is the best for use as the measurement point. More particularly, a preferred embodiment uses the steps of identifying a plurality of points of the signal with common attributes, for example, the zero crossings or the peaks. Thereafter, for each point identified, one or more characteristics are measured, for example, the peak amplitude following a point, or the span (difference in time between each point and the critical point). Based upon the signal characteristic to be evaluated, a target function is built based upon the defined target values or the preferred spot. Thereafter, a criteria function is built using the target functions as elements. The criteria function is used to locate the point of measurement (the desired incidence of the signal attribute). In a presently preferred embodiment, a weighted sum of the target functions for each point is calculated to provide the values of the criteria function. Then, criteria are set to evaluate which point "wins" and is used as the measurement point. For example, the largest positive value generated from the criteria function is the presently preferred choice.

For example, the present invention determines a point of measurement as follows:

(1) Find the quarter position of the energy function, Pe (a first critical point), and the quarter position of the energy ratio, Pf (a second critical point). (2) Find five consecutive zero-crossing points following Pf to determine the characteristics of the points by measuring the spans and the relative amplitudes or extremes following each point.

(3) Calculate three target functions at each zero-crossing point.

Preferably, the three target functions are target span #1 (FSl), target amplitude (FA), and target span #2 (FS2). The three functions can be described as follows:

Figure imgf000017_0001

where i = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Pi is the position ofthe ith zero-crossing point.

Ai = (αi*100)/Max., with ai being the amplitude following the ith zero-crossing point and Max. being the maximum amplitude of the signal.

TSI is the target span away from the energy function,

Pe. TA is the target amplitude. TS2 is the target span away from the energy ratio, Pf.

51 is the sensitivity of target span #1 function. SA is the sensitivity of target amplitude function.

52 is the sensitivity of target span #2 function. (4) A criteria function, FU"), is calculated for each zero-crossing point.

F(i) = 10 {[(WS1)(FSD] + [(WA)(FA(i))] + [(WS2)(FS2(i))]}

Where

WS1 is the waiting factor of FSl. WA is the waiting factor of FA. WS2 is the waiting factor of FS2.

(5) Find the desired zero-crossing based on the maximum of the criteria function, F(i).

F(j) = Max{F(i)}

(6) Calculate the transmit time based on the chosen zero crossing. FIG. 11 is a block diagram illustrating the apparatus 200 of the present invention. The apparatus 200 of the present invention comprises a clock 202, a counter 204, a transmitter 206, a first transducer 208, a memory 210, a controller 212, an analog-to-digital converter 214, a receiver 216 and a second transducer 218. The clock 202 is used for timing.

In operation, the transmitter 206 is fired. The apparatus 200 starts digitizing. The A/D converter 214 is activated. The counter 204 starts counting. At every count of the counter 204, the A/D converter 214 places a magnitude from the receiver 216 into the next location in the memory 210. Thus, as time passes, the memory 210 develops a curve as illustrated in FIG. 5. The data accumulated in the memory 210 is processed as previously discussed to determine the time measurement. Although the apparatus 200 illustrated in FIG. 11 indicates there are dual transducers 208, 218, it can be appreciated that a single transducer may be readily adapted for practicing the present invention. For example, a single transceiver device may be used to measure a reflected signal. Further, it can be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various system arrangements are readily available for practicing the present invention. Additional circuitry can be used to alternate the transmitter 206 and the receiver 218. Also, techniques or equipment can be readily adapted by those skilled in the art to delay the start of the A/D converter 214 until a later time prior to the arrival of the signal.

Additional advantages and modifications will readily occur to those skilled in the art. The invention in its broader aspects is therefore not limited to the specific details, representative apparatus, and the illustrative examples shown and described herein. Accordingly, departures may be made from the details without departing from the spirit or scope of the disclosed general inventive concept.

Claims

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS: 1. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising the steps of: (a) identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of a received signal, and (b) using the critical point for determining the time-of-flight of the received signal.
2. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 1 further comprising the steps of: (a) operating on the received signal for generating a pre-conditioned signal, (b) operating on the pre-conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal, and (c) operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal.
3. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises squaring the received signal.
4. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises taking the absolute value of the received signal.
5. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises a full wave rectification of the received signal.
6. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises applying a half wave rectification of the received signal.
7- The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal comprises averaging the pre-conditioned signal.
8. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal comprises taking a running average of the pre- conditioned signal.
9. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 8 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal comprises averaging the pre- conditioned signal by applying a window function.
10. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in clεdm 9 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a rectangular window function.
11. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 9 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a cosine window function.
12. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 9 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Hamming window function.
13. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 9 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Hanning window function.
14. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 9 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Kaiser window function.
15. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 9 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Bartlett window function.
16. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 9 wherein the step of averaging the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function comprises selecting the window length to be proportional to the period of the received signal.
17. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 16 wherein the step of selecting the window length to be proportional to the period of the received signal comprises maintaining the proportionality factor between 0.5 and 5.0 of the period.
18. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal comprises evaluating an energy ratio of the conditioned signal.
19. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 18 wherein the step of evaluating an energy ratio of the conditioned signal comprises maintaining a relationship between the time lag assocated with the period of the received signal.
20. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 19 wherein the step of maintaining a relationship between the time lag assocated with the period of the received signal comprises maintaining a relationship wherein the time lag is between 0.1 and 10 period of the received signal.
21. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal comprises taking the derivative of the conditioned signal.
22. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the signal comprises selecting a point having a value less than the maximum value of the discriminated signal.
23. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 22 wherein the step of selecting a point having a value less than the maximum value of the discriminated signal comprises selecting a point on a positive slope ofthe discriminated signal.
24. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 22 wherein the step of selecting a point having a value less than the maximum value of the signal comprises selecting a point on a negative slope of the discriminated signal.
25. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 2 wherein the step of identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the signal comprises selecting a point having a value equal to the maximum value of the discriminated signal.
26. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 1 wherein the step of using the critical point for determining the time-of-flight of the signal comprises the steps of: (a) ascertaining at least one marker point related to an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal and having a temporal relationship with the critical point, and (b) using the marker point for determining the time-of-flight of the signal since commencement.
27. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 26 wherein the step of ascertaining at least one marker point comprises the steps of: (a) identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal and has a temporal relationship with the critical point, and (b) ascertaining marker points proximate to and bracketing the signal attribute.
28. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 27 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal comprises the step of identifying a positive zero crossing.
29. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 27 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal comprises the step of identifying a negative zero crossing.
30. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 27 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal comprises the step of identifying a peak.
31. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 27 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal comprises the step of identifying a trough.
32. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 1 further comprising the steps of: (a) identifying at least two marker points, (b) interpolating between the marker points for calculating a value of an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal, and (c) using the calculated value of the intrinsic characteristic of the signal for determining the time-of-flight of the received signal.
33. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising the steps of: (a) identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the received signal, (b) ascertaining a marker point related to an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal and having a temporal relationship with the critical point, and (c) using the marker point for determining the time-of-flight of the signal since commencement.
34. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 33 further comprising, prior to the step of identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the signal, the steps of: (a) operating on the received signal for generating a pre-conditioned signal, (b) operating on the pre-conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal, and (c) operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal.
35. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 34 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises squaring the received signal.
36. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 34 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises taking the absolute value of the received signal.
37. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 34 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises a full wave rectification of the received signal.
38. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 34 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal comprises a half wave rectification of the received signal.
39. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 34 wherein the step of operating on the pre-conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal comprises taking a running average of the pre- conditioned signal.
40. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 39 wherein the step of taking a running average of the pre-conditioned signal comprises averaging the signal by applying a moving window function.
41. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 40 wherein the step of taking a running average of the pre-conditioned signal by applying a window function further comprises selecting the window length to be proportional to the period of the signal measured.
42. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 41 wherein the step of selecting the window length to be proportional to the period of the received signal comprises maintaining the proportionality factor between 0.5 and 5.0 of the period.
43. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 40 wherein the step of averaging the signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a rectangular window function.
44. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 40 wherein the step of averaging the signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a cosine window function.
45. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 40 wherein the step of averaging the signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Hamming window function.
46. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 40 wherein the step of averaging the signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Hanning window function.
47. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 40 wherein the step of averaging the signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Kaiser window function.
48. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 40 wherein the step of averaging the signal by applying a window function comprises averaging by applying a Bartlett window function.
49. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 34 wherein the step of operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal comprises evaluating an energy ratio of the received signal.
50. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 49 wherein the step of evaluating an energy ratio of the conditioned signal comprises the step of maintaining a relationship between the time lag assocated with the period of the received signal.
51. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 50 wherein the step of maintaining a relationship between the time lag assocated with the period of the received signal comprises maintaining a relationship wherein the time lag is between 0.1 and 10 period of the received signal.
52. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 34 wherein the step of operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal comprises taking the derivative of the conditioned signal.
53. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 33 wherein the step of identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the signal comprises selecting a point having a value less than the maximum value of the discriminated signal.
54. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 53 wherein the step of selecting a point having a value less than the maximum value of the signal comprises selecting a point on a positive slope of the discriminated signal.
55. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 53 wherein the step of selecting a point having a value less than the maximum value of the signal comprises selecting a point on a negative slope of the discriminated signal.
56. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 33 wherein the step of identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the signal comprises selecting a point having a value equal to the maximum value of the discriminated signal.
57. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 33 wherein the step of ascertaining at least one marker point comprises the steps of: (a) identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal and has a temporal relationship with the critical point, and (b) ascertaining marker points proximate to the signal attribute.
58. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in clεdm 57 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal comprises the step of identifying a positive zero crossing.
59. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 57 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal comprises the step of identifying a negative zero crossing.
60. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 57 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal comprises the step of identifying a peak.
61. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 57 wherein the step of identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the received signal comprises the step of identifying a trough.
62. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 57 further comprising the steps of: (a) identifying at least two marker points, and (b) interpolating between the marker points for calculating a value of the intrinsic characteristic of the received signal.
63. The method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 62 further comprising the step of using the calculated value of the intrinsic characteristic of the received signal for determining the time-of-flight of the signal.
64. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising the steps of: (a) identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the received signal, comprising (1) evaluating an energy ratio of the received signal, and (2) setting the critical point at approximately one-fourth of the maximum of the energy ratio on the positive slope ofthe energy ratio, (b) ascertaining at least two marker points related to a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal and having a temporal relationship with the critical point, comprising (1) determining the signal attribute to be a positive zero crossing, and (2) identifying a plurality of marker points on the received signal which are proximate to the positive zero crossing, (c) interpolating between the marker points to determine a point of measurement of the positive zero crossing, and (d) using the characteristic point for determining the time-of-flight of the signal.
65. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 64 further comprising digitizing the received signal prior to identifying a critical point.
66. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 64 further comprising enhancing the digitized signal prior to identifying a critical point.
67. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 66 wherein the step of enhancing the digitized signal prior to identifying a critical point comprises filtering the digitized signal prior to identifying a critical point.
68. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal as defined in claim 66 wherein the step of enhancing the digitized signal prior to identifying a critical point comprises stacking the digitized signal prior to identifying a critical point.
69. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising the steps of: (a) squaring the received signal after receipt for generating a pre-conditioned signal, (b) taking a running average of the pre- conditioned signal for generating a conditioned signal, wherein the step of taking a running average further comprises applying a rectangular window function, (c) operating on the conditioned signal for generating a discriminated signal by evaluating an energy ratio of the signal, (d) identifying a critical point associated with the beginning of the signal based upon the energy ratio further comprising selecting a point where the discriminated signal has a value of approximately 25% of the maximum value of the discriminated signal, (e) identifying a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal and has a temporal relationship with the critical point wherein the signal attribute is a positive zero crossing, (f) identifying at least two marker points, (g) interpolating between the marker points for calculating a value of the intrinsic characteristic of the signal, and (h) using the calculated value of the intrinsic characteristic of the signal for determining the time-of-flight of the signal.
70. An apparatus for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising: (a) a transmitter for emitting a signal, (b) a receiver for receiving the signal from the transmitter, (c) means for detecting a critical point as an indication of the onset of the received signal, (d) means for determining a point of measurement within the received signal, and (e) means for measuring the elapsed time from transmission of the signal.
71. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising the steps of: (a) identifying at least one critical point εissociated with the beginning of the received signal, (b) ascertaining a plurality of marker points related to a sequence of a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal and having a temporal relationship with the critical point, (c) calculating a plurality of target functions at each signal attribute, (d) calculating a criteria function for each incidence of the signal attribute based upon the target functions, (e) locating the desired incidence of the signal attribute based on the criteria function, and (f) using the selected incidence of the signal attribute to determine the time-of-flight of the signal.
72. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising the steps of: (a) identifying at least one critical point associated with the beginning of the received signal, comprising (1) evaluating an energy function of the received signal, (2) setting a first critical point at approximately one-fourth of the maximum of the energy function on the positive slope of the energy function, (3) determining an energy ratio of the energy function associated with the received signal, and (4) setting a second critical point at approximately one-fourth of the maximum of the energy ratio on the positive slope ofthe energy ratio, (b) ascertaining a plurality of marker points related to a sequence of a signal attribute which attribute is εin intrinsic characteristic of the signal and having a temporal relationship with the critical point, comprising (1) determining the signal attribute to be a zero crossing, and (2) identifying a plurality of marker points on the received signal which are proximate to the zero crossings in the sequence, (c) calculate a plurality of target functions at each incidence of the signal attribute, comprising 35 ( 1) determining one or more span
36 functions, comprising
37 (A) measuring the first span from
38 the first critical point to each
39 incident of the signal attribute,
40 and
41 (B) measuring the second span from
42 the second critical point to each
43 incident of the signal attribute,
44 (C) calculating the target span
45 functions for comparing the
46 measured spans with a
47 respective target span, and
48 (2) determining one or more amplitude
49 functions, comprising
50 (A) selecting the relative extremes of
51 the signal following each
52 incidence of the signal attribute,
53 and
54 (B) calculating the target amplitude
55 function for comparing the
56 measured amplitudes with a
57 respective target amplitude,
58 (d) calculating a criteria function for each
59 incidence of the zero crossings based upon
60 the target functions, comprising
61 (1) applying a weighting factor to each
62 target function, εind
63 (2) summing the weighted target
64 functions,
65 (e) locating the desired incidence of the signal
66 attribute by evaluating the criteria
67 functions,
68 (f) using the selected incidence of the signal
69 attribute to determine the time-of-flight of
70 the signal.
73. A method for measuring the time-of-flight of a signal comprising the steps of:
(a) identifying at least one critical point associated with the beginning of the received signal,
(b) ascertaining a plurality of marker points related to a sequence of a signal attribute which attribute is an intrinsic characteristic of the signal and having a temporal relationship with the critical point,
(c) calculating a plurality of target functions at each signal attribute, where the functions can be described as follows:
Figure imgf000036_0001
(d) calculating a criteria function for each incidence of the signal attribute based upon the target functions, where the function can be described as follows:
F(i) = 10 {[(WS1)(FS1)] + [(WA)(FA(i))] + [(WS2)(FS2(i))]}
(e) locating the desired incidence of the signal attribute based on the criteria function, and
(f) using the selected incidence of the signal attribute to determine the time-of-flight of the signal.
PCT/US1995/011118 1995-09-05 1995-09-05 Measuring time of flight of a signal WO1997009591A1 (en)

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